Gardening Question of the Day

How can I make my own potting soil for container gardening?

A good mixture for potted vegetables or flowers is equal parts peat moss, rich garden soil, and sand. Mix well with a trowel.

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My peas are getting too thick in foliage and stem. What may have caused this?

Excess foliage and stem growth may be the result of watering young seedlings too much. It's best to water sparsely unless the plants are wilting.

What is the best food to feed chrysanthemums?

Mums like lots of organic matter, such as leaf mold and compost, added to soil that is slightly acidic and well drained.

How many species or varieties of oak trees are there?

True oaks, from the genus Quercus (part of the beech family), can be separated into three groups: white, red, and black. Many plants often called oaks aren't from this genus. These include African oak, Australian oak, bull oak, Jerusalem oak, poison oak, river oak, she-oak, silky oak, tanbark oak, Tasmanian oak, and tulip oak.

Some years my early peas do fine, but other years I get nothing. What's up?

What's up or not up may depend on how wet the spring is in your area. The challenge in planting early peas is to get them in the ground while the soil is still cool but not have them sit too long in wet soil. It's a delicate balance of proper timing and weather conditions. Well-drained, humus-rich soil is a big help. Some years, despite all your best efforts, the seeds will rot before they germinate, requiring a second or even a third planting. The trick is to keep checking them until those first solid rows of sprouts begin to form. Be sure, too, that you don't fertilize the soil too much. Peas are especially sensitive to too much nitrogen, but they may like a little bonemeal, for the phosphorus content. Try some of the old-fashioned shelling pea varieties, such as 'Tall Telephone', 'Lincoln', or 'Little Marvel', if you can find them. The more modern sugar snap varieties are also worth a try. Be sure to note whether the pea vines will grow so tall that they might need staking or fencing. It would be a shame to lose your crop for lack of proper supports.

Do you have to plant pumpkin seeds in a hill? Also, what type of soil do pumpkins need?

Prepare the ground in early spring as soon as the ground is warm. Fertilize with a good four inches of rotting cow manure. Pumpkins do best in slightly acid or nearly neutral soil. If you live in an area where there is a danger of frost in late April or early May, start the seeds indoors about two weeks before planting outdoors. When the seedlings have the fourth or fifth leaf, set them out in hills the size of a pitcher's mound, one plant to a hill. Space hills at least 20 feet apart. Pumpkins need a lot of sun and water, but don't plant them in wet or dense soil -- they need good, well-drained soil.

What are some good home remedies to clear up a poison oak rash and make it less itchy?

This rash is actually an allergic reaction -- some people will be bothered by poison oak, and some won't. It's not contagious, and the fluid in the blisters will not spread the rash, as is commonly thought. Most rashes will clear up without treatment, and, for a mild case, you can probably just let it run its course. A cortisone-type preparation may help. Also, keep bath or shower water as cool as possible and avoid using soap on the affected area. Health food stores sell several natural remedies for a poison oak rash, and you may wish to consult a local store for advice on which ones work best.

Are nasturtium blossoms safe to eat?

Nasturtiums are one of the more well-known flowers used in cooking. Others include marigolds, carnations, roses, pansies, squash blossoms, daylilies, carnations, chrysanthemums, lavender, hollyhocks, gardenias, and, of course, dandelions and clover. Brides are used to seeing candied violets on wedding cakes, a tradition that goes back to at least the 17th century. Both the Chinese and Japanese consider chrysanthemums a powerful emblem of youth. A petal placed in the bottom of a glass of wine is thought to enhance longevity. The Chinese also believe that it prevents gray hair. Daylilies have been highly regarded by the Chinese as well, partly for their vitamins and minerals but also for their reputation for easing worries and a troubled mind. Nasturtiums, to get back to your question, are readily grown and naturally beautiful. They're high in vitamin C and reputed to contain a healthful ingredient that seems to mimic penicillin in warding off infection. The leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems are edible and have a peppery taste, which can turn bitter if they're left too long before serving. Their common name is Indian cress, because their taste resembles that of watercress.

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